The Media Offers Occupy Wall Street a Future


Things are looking tense for the Occupy movement.  Their last few rounds of violence and vandalism, coupled with revulsion at their squalid camps, seem to have decisively turned the public against them.  USA Today and Gallup just released a poll that detects very little sympathy for the movement:

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows that the “Occupy” movement has failed to capture the attention of a majority of Americans, indicating either ambivalence toward it or lack of interest.

The poll finds that 56% of Americans surveyed are neither supporters nor opponents and 59% say they don’t know enough to have an opinion about the movement’s goals.

The survey, however, does show an increase from 20% to 31% in disapproval of the way the protests are being conducted.

This presents several big problems for the Occupiers.  Their failure to gain greater attention and sympathy is staggering, considering the scale of media bias deployed in the service of protecting their image.  Their flaws have been covered, they’ve been extended “benefits of the doubt” that can only make innocent Tea Party activists – who remember the media fingering them as accomplices to the Tucson murders only seven months ago – gape in astonishment, and their “message” of “income inequality” is both sanitized and repeated throughout the media echo chamber.

This is as good as it gets for Occupy Wall Street, and in the wake of the ugly Zuccotti Park cleanup operation, it is simply impossible for the media to keep airbrushing them without looking foolish.  That’s why the past week has seen a wave of editorials sending Occupy the not-so-subtle signal that it’s time to pack up the tents and go away for a while.  The press wants them to lay low until the end of the summer, so the public can forget the worst of their excesses.  Camera-friendly Occupy “leaders” with politically useful messages will be separated from the rape-camp crowd and presented as the true, authentic voices of a “mostly peaceful” movement.  After a quick media makeover, the new Occupy Wall Street can be re-introduced as the Democrat Party’s lovely and spirited prom date for the 2012 elections. 

These marching orders, and the offers of political protection from the media, were explicitly laid out in a hilariously clumsy New York Times column from David Carr on Sunday:

Occupy Wall Street has its reasons to avoid the trap of the media pigeonhole: conservative-leaning outlets like Fox News and The New York Post have sought to pathologize the movement, treating hangers-on who committed crimes as representative of the larger group of protesters.

The Occupiers also got a dismissive wave of the hand from Wall Street. Again and again you saw people in finance condescending to the protesters. The collective response seemed to be, “They have no idea how important what we do is,” with a suggestion that the ignorance extends to the ins and outs of high finance.

The protesters have a pretty good comeback: They may not know what a collateralized debt obligation is, but neither did the Wall Street guys selling them, and their ignorance all but upended the country.

The people who make up Occupy Wall Street know enough to sense that a tipping point is at hand. Regardless of how the movement proceeds now that it is not gathered around campfires, its impact on the debate could be lasting and significant. If the coming election ends up being framed in terms of “fairness,” the people who took to the streets, battled the police and sat through those endless general assembly meetings will know that even though their tents are gone, their footprint remains.

(Emphases mine.)  Translation: actual news outlets, unlike the New York Times propaganda factory, did far too good a job reporting on the Occupy crime wave, but don’t worry – Carr and the Times will make all of that go away, if you guys just run along home and play it cool until they tell you it’s safe to come back out.  Your reward will be a heroic narrative about how you’ve distilled the passions from your occasionally rocky start into clean, pure, constructive political activism that just might change history in 2012… just like the Tea Party did in 2010. 

Carr very carefully explains to the Occupy loons that the liberal media is simply dying to write that story, and even promises that the press will take the blame for any unfortunate communications problems that led to sub-optimal image control during the Occupy riots:

Part of the reason that Occupy made a dent in media consciousness is that many in the press learned the hard way that supposedly fringe political movements can play big for their size at a time of maximum anxiety. Remember when the Tea Party was just a few people rallying in various American cities? But then it went to work electing people to Congress and pushing a specific legislative agenda, gathering force and influence. Reporters do not like being run over by something we did not see coming.

Occupy Wall Street, by definition, eschews the mainstream political process as corrupt beyond repair, which is certainly a reasonable position, but politics remains how business gets done and history is altered.

In an even more delusional Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne hugs the Occupiers and tells them what a bunch of winners they are – the very best protest movement ever, so awesome and beautiful that all the hellish powers of the Right cannot “drive a wedge between working-class voters and the occupiers”:

Occupy realized that the old approaches hadn’t worked. So it provided the media with a committed group of activists to cover, a good story line and excellent pictures. Paradoxically, its unconventional approach fit nicely with current media conventions. And its indifference to immediate political concerns gave the movement a freedom of action that others on the left did not have.

The breakup of some of Occupy’s encampments signals a new phase for the movement. This does not have to mean its end. On the contrary, it is an opportunity.

Dionne concludes with exactly the same fabulous limited-time only, accept-no-substitutes offer of enthusiastic media support, in exchange for harmonization between the Occupiers and the Democrat Party agenda, as was extended by Carr:

Ongoing violent demonstrations will simply not help the cause, and the Martin Luther King Jr.’s lessons on nonviolence are useful here. Thismovement is about something much bigger than “occupying” a particular space. Occupations proved to be a shrewd tactic. They are not a cause or an end in themselves. Focusing on holding a piece of public land simply makes the movement a hostage to the decisions of local officials, some of whom will inevitably be hostile to its purposes.

More important, the movement should remind itself of its greatest innovation, its slogan: “We are the 99 percent.” This is an affirmation that it is trying to speak for nearly everybody. Its tactics should live up to this aspiration by building support among the vast number of Americans who will never show up at the encampments. It should also want to help political figures such as [Massachusetts Democrat senatorial candidate Elizabeth] Warren, who understood far earlier than most the costs of inequality and of the abuses of financial power. The last thing this movement should want to do is create fodder for the ads and e-mails propagated by Warren’s foes.

The occupations have done their work. Now it’s time to occupy the majority.

This is a very handsome offer, but it looks like the Occupiers might not be willing to hang out in Mom’s basement until Obama needs them back on the streets, bright-eyed and freshly scrubbed.  Big Government reports that Occupy Oakland, which managed to shut down one of the nation’s busiest ports with a riot several weeks ago, is calling for massive interference with ports across the West Coast that could cost thousands of jobs and inflict hundreds of millions in damage.  The Occupiers are careful to ensure their labor-union allies are well-treated:

We call on each West Coast occupation to organize a mass mobilization to shut down its local port. Our eyes are on the continued union-busting and attacks on organized labor, in particular the rupture of Longshoremen jurisdiction in Longview Washington by the EGT. Already, Occupy Los Angeles has passed a resolution to carry out a port action on the Port Of Los Angeles on December 12th, to shut down SSA terminals, which are owned by Goldman Sachs.

Occupy Oakland expands this call to the entire West Coast, and calls for continuing solidarity with the Longshoremen in Longview Washington in their ongoing struggle against the EGT. The EGT is an international grain exporter led by Bunge LTD, a company constituted of 1% bankers whose practices have ruined the lives of the working class all over the world, from Argentina to the West Coast of the US. During the November 2nd General Strike, tens of thousands shutdown the Port Of Oakland as a warning shot to EGT to stop its attacks on Longview. Since the EGT has disregarded this message, and continues to attack the Longshoremen at Longview, we will now shut down ports along the entire West Coast.

Participating occupations are asked to ensure that during the port shutdowns the local arbitrator rules in favor of longshoremen not crossing community picket lines in order to avoid recriminations against them. Should there be any retaliation against any workers as a result of their honoring pickets or supporting our port actions, additional solidarity actions should be prepared. In the event of police repression of any of the mobilizations, shutdown actions may be extended to multiple days.

The consequences from that level of economic sabotage would be very difficult for the media to work around when it tries to tell middle-class Americans how much they have in common with the Obama-approved Occupy movement.

Meanwhile, Inside HigherEd reports that “a group that started with the Occupy movement” has decided to address the student loan problem by refusing to pay their student loans:

Under the campaign — which grew from the original Occupy Wall Street protest and is now known, inevitably, as Occupy Student Debt — borrowers will pledge to stop repaying their student loans once 1 million people vow to do so as well. The campaign is calling for several reforms of higher education, including free public colleges, no-interest loans, greater transparency at private and for-profit colleges and complete forgiveness of all existing student debt.

The theory is that if such a huge number of students go into default at the same time, the system will be overwhelmed, because it doesn’t have the resources to go after all of them.  They might be seriously underestimating the system they’re trying to crash:

Should the campaign get that far, one million defaulting borrowers would be a dramatic statistic, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs with the American Council on Education.

But defaulting on student loans — especially federal loans — is different from defaulting on a mortgage or car loan. The loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. The federal government will garnish wages, dock tax returns and take borrowers to court to ensure that the money is eventually repaid, and in the meantime, borrowers’ credit scores are ruined.

“The federal government will wreck the borrower’s economic life to get the money back,” Hartle said. “In light of the economic environment and the amount students have borrowed, the frustration is very understandable. But the biggest short-term impact would be on the individuals, not on anyone else.”

The Occupiers have a fairly clear choice on the table, as articulated by hopeful Democrat Party media auxiliaries such as Carr and Dionne: get housebroken, get with the program, and make yourselves useful, and we’ll be standing by with buckets of whitewash and gallons of ink.  The only alternative, as a combination of winter weather and angry citizens breaks up their camps, is to escalate their actions and assert their independence. 

The essential difference between the Tea Party and the Occupiers can be seen in the simple willingness of Tea Partiers to go home.  They had their demonstrations, some of which were quite enormous – they absolutely swamped Washington D.C. – but then they paid the applicable fees, picked up their trash, and went back to their day jobs, keeping in touch via the Internet until the next election rolled around.  That always terrified the Left, which is why they tried so hard to paint the Tea Party as the kind of extremist powder keg that Occupy Wall Street is.  That’s also why the Left is now desperate for the Occupiers to play along with an organized media attempt to wipe out their juvenile crime records and turn them into a grown-up grassroots movement like the Tea Party.